Every season there are numerous breakouts that find their way to fantasy relevance. The biggest values are the players without crazy pre-season hype. In 2023, we have seen players like Matt McLain, Josh Lowe, and Spencer Steer provide under-the-radar big-time production. Between this group, we have three guys that are driving their real-world teams and fantasy teams toward the playoffs with very different hitting profiles. However, each guy had proven little at the major league level prior to 2023. This week, we are going to go under the covers of each of these unsuspecting breakouts using their Baseball Savant profiles to identify a potential doppelgänger for the rest of the 2023 season that could really break out in 2024.
McLain has an interesting profile on Baseball Savant. Essentially, he is fast and does most everything else just slightly above average.
He does have 91st percentile speed leading to thirteen steals and only five times caught on the base paths. He checks in with a xBA of .256 which is much lower than his actual .293 thanks in large part to a .389 BABIP. From a contact perspective, he is in the 57th percentile for hard hits and 65th for barrels leading to fifteen homers that are no doubt helped by the home ballpark beating his xHR of twelve. The big red mark on the profile ends up being his strikeout rate which is in the bottom 20% of the league. So how does he compare to his peers?
Well, the biggest takeaway here is less about finding a comparative breakout but that McLain is simply playing over his head. Most of these guys have some value and a guy like Ezequiel Duran is already producing to some degree for fantasy owners. The most interesting name on the list however is Patrick Bailey. Bailey is a strong defensive catcher which gives him opportunities to stay in the lineup. What intrigues about Bailey is that while McLain might have regression coming, he still profiles to be a .260-.270 hitter with 20-homer power amid strikeout problems. While still interesting as a middle infielder, that profile is much more intriguing at catcher. Bailey only has about a half season in the bigs, but he has a xBA of .267 and exhibits mid-teens power already. With a little development and some of that McLain luck, we are looking at a sneaky catcher value going into 2024.
If there was an ideal profile for rotisserie fantasy relevance without being red across the board, it would be similar to that of Josh Lowe.
In our 5×5 game, speed and power can be valuable at the cost of strikeouts and walks where the real-world game looks for value. Lowe lives in the top 15% of the league in speed and maximum exit velocity. Essentially, when he barrels up the ball, he makes really loud contact. The strong maximum exit velocity explains why only two of his homers this season were just over the wall. On the speed side, he has taken that 86th percentile sprint and turned it into 25 steals. Sure, Lowe’s profile masks the fact that he does not play against lefties which will cap his overall value, especially in weekly leagues. However, a bat that can go 25/25 while piling on counting stats is a breakout that cannot be ignored. Who else has that special power and speed blend?
With injuries holding him back from real playing time the last few years, Royce Lewis has had his hype train derailed. However, his metrics are a dead ringer for Lowe with speed and maybe more impressive power. Pair that with poor plate discipline and he can seem a bit volatile despite the floor he actually has. In 32 games this season he has six homers and two steals with a .328 average. While that batting average is a mirage thanks to a high BABIP (.412), the power is very real with a top 10% of the league maximum exit velocity. In addition, he does not have the platoon issues of Lowe in our comparison. I really like what I see with Lewis and he is positioning himself as a potential 2024 breakout. I will leave you with a very pretty swing:
For the first time in his MLB career, Royce Lewis has homers in back-to-back games ?
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 25, 2023
Unlike his teammate in Matt McLain, Steer has a stronger foundation as it pertains to his plate discipline. He maintains a 20% strikeout rate but a strong 10% walk rate while rarely chasing pitches. He also packs top-quartile speed that has translated to eleven steals on the season. While Great American Ballpark does help the power, the majority of his home runs have been assured of leaving any ballpark in the league. Finally, the luck metrics generally imply that what you see is what you get with Steer. So who compares to Spencer?
Andruw Monasterio jumps out as an interesting name as the current utility infielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. At this point in his rookie season, he has less than 200 at bats producing a .257 average and a combined eight homers and steals. Based on his minor league results across four organizations, Monasterio is a bit more speed than power. He also was able to walk more than he struck out in AAA for the Brewers in 2023. Despite a similar profile to Steer and other impressive names like Ha-Seong Kim, He profiles as more of a 10-homer, 20-steal bat that can plug a hole rather than carry a team. Keep an eye on Andruw for the rest of the season as he could be a sneaky late-round flier in 2024.